Monthly Archives: October 2015

The rain will drain mainly in the chain

Gutters: a man’s job. I lived many years in this house as a single woman, and never once did I get on a ladder and clean the gutters. I had to marry—twice—to obtain that service. Thank heavens Eric is proficient at all things house maintenance-related. What would I do without him? I would have vegetation growing out of my gutters, that’s what.

Every time it rains around here (which, in a normal year in the Pacific Northwest, is often), we watch the gutters outside the French doors and the kitchen window overflow and the water splash down dramatically at the end of the gutter run onto the plants below. The plants don’t care for this much, and neither do we.

A couple of summers ago, we bought two nice wine barrels. Eric rigged one up as a water catchment system under the kitchen gutter. It still needs a proper spigot so I can use it for drip irrigation. For now, it just drains through a hose to the sidewalk. It looks cool and saves the rhododendron from drowning.

Wine barrel serves as rain catchment system

Rain barrel outside the kitchen window

We decided to put the other barrel next to the side porch where there’s nice little gap in the bushes just under the gutter. I wanted to remove the downspout and install a decorative copper rain chain instead. Better yet, install two rain chains—the other one over the other rain barrel by the kitchen. Rain chains come in an enormous variety of styles. We chose this Monarch Hibiki design from

Hibiki copper rain chain

Hibiki copper rain chain

A fairly simple project, right? Just remove the downspout and replace it with a rain chain. Nope … putting it in the downspout hole would hang it too close to the porch. Eric had to remove the old gutter, cut and assemble the new gutter, install it, and hang the rain chain. WHY does it always have to get more complicated? Because it’s an old house.

Eric removed the old gutter. Dirty, as expected.

Old, dirty gutter laying in the grass

Gutter down!

Now we could see the sorry state of the rotten rafter tails, which wasn’t a surprise, but it was easier to ignore when they weren’t visible. Many years ago, someone sistered in some 2x4s so the gutters had something solid to hang from. (They were painted the same color as the house, so I know they’ve been there since before 1994, when the house was last painted.) The sisters looked a little drunk as they staggered unevenly from rafter to rafter.

An old, rotten rafter tail and its sister.

A rotten rafter tail and its little sister.

Eric replaced them with a new generation of sisters who display proper posture.

New sistered rsfter tails for attaching a gutter

All the while he grumbled that he felt like the star of HGTV’s Holmes Makes It Right. Why is it, I asked him, that whenever a man repairs or replaces another man’s construction work, it’s always accompanied by disparaging remarks about the previous guy’s skills? Have you ever noticed that? I’m just happy the work is getting done … and grateful that Eric knows what he’s doing.

Next, Holmes—I mean Eric—covered the rafter tails with a pre-painted white fascia board for protection and to give the gutter nails more solid surface to bite into. Exposed rafter tails are a prominent design element of Craftsman homes, but when they’re covered with gutters, no one can see them.

White facsia board for gutter support.

A fascia behind the gutter

Using the old gutter as a guide, Eric cut and assembled the new gutter parts and sealed the seams. If you’re wondering, I did help: I climbed the rickety wooden step ladder and held the gutter in position while Eric attached it. (I was actually busy finishing our new headboard. More on that in due time.)

I noticed that box-store gutters are smaller than their professional counterparts. I hope it’ll carry a November storm’s-worth of rain runoff. At any rate, the new gutter looks clean and tidy, and it’s not about to fall off.

Man using three ladders to install gutter over porch

Parade of ladders

Time for the pièce de résistance—the rain chain! Installation was quick and easy. Simply drop the hook into the gutter’s opening, attach the top collector cup, and then the chain. Et voilà!

Installing the top cup of a rain chain on a gutter

Makes the old paint look worse

Eric “rolled out the barrel” from the backyard, cut a circle out of the top, and stapled screen fabric over the hole. He cross-wired the rain chain over the opening to keep it from swinging in the wind.

Man cutting hole in top of wine barrel

A wine barrel turns into a rain barrel

Wine barrel as a rain barrel with rain chain

The rain barrel in place

Isn’t the rain chain beautiful, shining in the sun? (Click to enlarge.)

And it works, too! It’s mesmerizing to watch, like a fountain.

Rain running down a copper rain chain into a barrel

Our first rain test

Now I’m paranoid about copper thieves. I asked Duke to set off his alarm and call 9-1-1 if he sees anyone messing with the chain. “I’ve got your back, mom,” he assured me. “I’m on duty 24/7. Nothing gets past me! How about a cookie?”

Boxer dog lying on couch with pillow

Duke on duty

Green ginkgo leaf with 1913 - 2013 below it